Friday, May 15, 2009

People of color in scifi and fantasy

Metafilter made me aware today of this essay ("Shame," by Pam Noles) about the dearth of people of color in sci-fi and fantasy fiction. It's not new, it's from 2006.

The essay hangs its narrative around the transformation of Ursula K. Leguin's Earthsea stories into whitewash when they were made into a movie. The characters were all shifted towards the white end of the scale, the author says. 

But I can't judge that because I never noticed that the characters were anything but white, and I reread most of those books in the last year. I knew I was white ... you know, in the pejorative sense of someone clueless about the issues involved in color ... but I didn't know I was that white. 

I'm not saying I thought the characters were white. I just wasn't conscious of their race. And to some degree LeGuin did that on purpose (here are her comments on the situation). But you know, only whites get to ignore race. I hate to realize I did that. 

Which isn't to say that you shouldn't read LeGuin. If you haven't, drop the blog right now and get to your library. 

1 comment:

  1. I own the Earthsea books but it has been so long since I read them--actually don't know if I read the second. And I don't recall noticing the race in them either.

    Though I do recall noticing it in a number of her science fiction novels. Same with Samuel R. Delaney's work.

    Anyway, this really made me think about my choices of skin color in my own setting, which I just wrote a blog post about.