July 30th, 2010

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I Share That Dream, Too

I greatly enjoyed reading this essay, "Parallel Universe: I Share That Dream."  It explores civil rights in science fiction, also touching on how we handle race issues today. 

I'm happy to see someone else arguing some of my points: 1) We need to expose, not hide, racist perspectives so they can be dealt with.  2) Authors must have the right to write the book they  want to write, not just the book that someone else thinks they should write.

Also, I like the definition of "bigot" this blogger chose to present.  It refers to someone with a "stubborn and complete" intolerance.  Certainly there are people like that.  But it also leaves room for some other term -- perhaps "prejudiced" or "biased" -- for people who tend toward  intolerance but are not so set in their ways that change is impossible.  They might learn better if they get a clue someday.  They might even be trying already to overcome a childhood or other past experience that inclined them to beliefs they no longer wish to keep but cannot get rid of instantly.  For any equality campaign, that latter group is the one most in need of outreach: the audience where you are neither preaching to the choir nor wasting your breath, but might actually get through to eventually.

Speculative fiction is a field that lets us explore our world and ourselves by looking at different iterations of reality.  We can imagine how things would be different if history had taken another path.  We can extrapolate what various futures might look like -- and how we can avoid the uglier ones.  We can intensify or complicate controversial issues: What would racism look like if we had a nonhuman species to contrast with our ethnic groups?  What would sexism look like if there were several sex/gender roles instead of just two?  Sometimes fiction allows us to discover insights, as we think about a story or a character, that we can take home and apply in our own culture.  And so we grow, and the world grows with us.

If you haven't already read it, you might also enjoy my poem "To Have a Dream," which came out of the February 2, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  It's a science fiction civil rights poem, and it uses some of the same inspiration from a speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.