It’s an often-discussed topic in the fandoms/circles I follow lately — Star Wars and science fiction/fantasy in general. About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post for the website EUCantina about why we need more women in Star Wars. That post has since been lost to the internet ether, but it sparked a lot of discussion a few months later when another author wrote a rebuttal, basically saying that Star Wars already has a lot of women and we should only care about the quality of the story. Many more articles about diversity have been written since then, including one on my current blog home, Tosche Station, by staff writer Bria.
If you follow the SFWA, you already know what’s been going on there. Suffice it to say, some old-timers aren’t happy with the influx of female writers/writers of color, nor their demands to be treated equally and with respect in professional arenas and conventions. Those writers have responded, “too damn bad.”
Frankly, I’m tired of explaining to people why I think diversity in all genres in important. I wrote my master’s thesis about women workers at Kennedy Space Center, and the struggles they faced in gaining equality in the workforce and equal treatment no matter what their occupations. One of the arguments for diversity was that having people of differing backgrounds is just basic good business. You want to have lots of different opinions. If not, how will progress ever be achieved? How will you grow and develop? To me, it’s just basic common sense.
The same holds true for entertainment. If I have to choose between a television show featuring a diverse cast, and one featuring only straight white dudes, I’m going to pick the one with a diverse cast. Why? Because I will automatically assume it has more varied and interesting storylines. Could I be wrong? Of course. But not considering the diversity of your cast of characters is an immediate red flag to me. Some authors might default to making characters male, female, white, black, etc. I’ll be honest — my default is straight white woman, because that’s what I am. I recognize this, though, and consider diversity when I’m planning a story. In my first novel, one character was a bisexual woman. I did not set out to write her that way, nor did I set out for her to be in a relationship with another male character. It’s what her character dictated, so that’s what I wrote. The main character of my last WIP was a homosexual female. One of the main characters of my current WIP is a biracial asexual woman. The story demanded she be asexual, and while I was determining other character traits, I thought it would make sense that, in the future, there’d be a lot more people with biracial backgrounds. So that’s what I wrote.
Yes, in a vacuum, story should be the most important thing in a creative work. But there’s many more things that go into creating a story. Not considering the diversity of your cast — when it comes to gender, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. etc. — is selling yourself short. There’s no reason why you can’t include a fully diverse cast in a piece of entertainment — and I don’t just mean tokens — when we live in a fully diverse world.