The Right-Wing Riot is well known for our love of good stories and entertainment in popular culture. So we are honored and delighted to bring you this gem of pop culture wisdom by Karina Fabian, on the occasion of the launch of Book 3 of her “Mind Over” series. If you are a scifi/fantasy fan and haven’t read Fabian yet, you can thank us later. She is a prolific author across many genres. Without further ado, we bring you Karina Fabian.
Writing is About Story, Not Race
“It’s not their fault,” her cousin Jonny countered. He was leaning against her cousin Ray, but she couldn’t tell if he was intoxicated or too upset to stand. Probably both; he shoved away from their cousin to fall at her feet, nearly topping Masuto and Mikio. He clasped her knees, sobbing. ”It’s my fault! The whole plank thing was my idea. I almost killed your future husband!”
“That’s bullshit, Sachiko,” Joshua’s friend Carl grabbed Jonny by the shoulder and pulled him back. He had a bruise under his cheek and fury in his eyes. “We had everything under control until some idiot called the cops. Hate crimes? Do we look like racists?’
Sabrina and LaTisha had dragged Riqué to the corner and were laying into him in Spanish. He just kept shaking his head. He held a rosary in a death grip. Liz, meanwhile, had pulled her twin, Vince, aside and was giving him similar treatment in Italian, as was Lenny’s fiancé to him in English. Two of her cousins were hissing warnings not to mention that their cousin Leo might have been at the party.
Sachiko pressed a hand to her forehead. Four languages buzzed in her head, getting more meaningless even as the volume rose.
I love writing science fiction and fantasy. I love the idea of making up fantastic cultures, exploring new attitudes as well as new worlds, and taking ideas or aspects of our world and projecting them to a new level. I grew up thinking of aliens and androids as characters just as viable as my family and friends. I read about utopias that weren’t and medieval cultures that were progressive on an individual level. I was fascinated by the culture and biology of the Tenctonese in ALIEN NATION. Science fiction and fantasy has always been multicultural and diverse.
Which is why I’m increasingly irritated by this growing attitude that it isn’t and that certain groups are marginalized for their race, gender or orientation.
Growing up, I didn’t see it. I first got into science fiction in the mid-70s, which meant I devoured everything from Asimov’s Foundation series to Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books. I watched Star Trek and Star Wars and Labyrinth and Princess Bride. The idea that readers are only/were only interested in a prevailing white cismale attitude that repressed women and minorities is nonsensical to me. First off, no one I knew was reading for prevailing attitude or social or political orientation. We sought stories where the people were interesting or the plot was engaging or the action exciting or the tech amazing. We looked at covers and back cover blurbs, posters and teasers on TV.
We didn’t stop to consider the balance of skin tones. It didn’t matter. In the fiction I read, if it didn’t apply directly to some aspect of the character, it didn’t get mentioned. Not because other races were being repressed but because it didn’t matter. It was Human vs. Alien. If anything, there was a prevailing (yet unspoken) attitude that we were racially colorblind. To be frank, I was raised in such a way that I never noticed race either, not in my reading or in my real life, unless someone made a point of it.
Sexual orientation? In ALIEN NATION, it takes three genders to produce a child, pregnancy is shared, and the “male” (one of the two that look male in anatomy) carries the child to term. Mercedes Lackey’s Herald Vanyel was gay, yet her books have been best sellers for decades. I’m not saying Vanyel is the exception that disproves the rule. What I am saying is that Vanyel was a fascinating character in his own right, and the fact that he was gay was a part of his character, not a reason for his being…or a reason to read her books.
As I grew up, Americans became more interested in their cultural heritages. In some ways, it’s made for a richer American culture. In others, it’s ripping us apart. Even as we profess to believe that people should not be judged on race, gender, sexual orientation or political leanings, we constantly call attention to just these things and demand either special treatment or encumbrances based on just those things. A February call to stop reading books by white male authors for a year illustrates this.
It also confuses me, because never have I stopped to consider the author when selecting a new book, and if I consider the author after that, it’s because I enjoyed his or her writing and want to read more of the same. Aside from the occasional back-cover thumbnail picture, I don’t even know what the author’s possible race or even gender is. Even then, I’m more likely to notice the parrot on her shoulder than the color of her skin. True story: It’s only in my adult life that I discovered Lois McMaster Bujold was Lois and not Louis. If I hadn’t spoken – and mispronounced – her name to my husband, I might still have never noticed. That’s how closely I look at the names. (Even then, I looked up her photo just to make sure she is a she. It’s just not important to the quality of her writing.)
Incorporating human cultures and ethnicities into SFF is fun and can make a richer story, as I hope my excerpt above demonstrates. (This is from Hearts Over Mind, a novella to complete the Mind Over trilogy.) However, when it becomes The Mission of the story, we’ve lost. Not just in the story. Not just in the entertainment value, which is the first and primary reason for fiction.
No, we’ve lost in our quest to grow beyond the barriers of gender, race, and orientation, because we’ve stopped seeing each other as human and have instead boxed ourselves into roles with limitations.
By day, Karina is a mild-mannered reviewer of business software and services for TopTenReviews.com. After hours, she’s a psychic intent on saving the world; a snarky dragon who thinks he saves the world all-too regularly, a zombie exterminator who just wants her world clear of undead vermin, and nuns whose callings have taken them off our world. Needless to say, her imagination is vast, her stories legion, and her brain crowded. When she’s not converting her wild tales to stories, she’s enjoying time with her husband, Rob, their four kids, and their two dogs.
Visit Karina’s website: fabianspace.com