Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sci-Fi Romance & The White Default, Take Two

I've been enjoying sci-fi romances with diverse characters and themes, so when I read one without them, the book stands out like a sore thumb.

I'm troubled by a sci-fi romance I recently started. The setting—a far future with many colonized planets—is populated by humans who are descendants of Earth humans. I hear you—this describes, like, a hundred different stories. However, with this one it's important to point out there are no alien species in the mix.

The author created various new races for this setting. The problem is that so far, there isn't a brown-skinned or Asian person among them. In fact, I have yet to encounter any characters of color at all. Why is that? Why ignore pre-existing and perfectly useful races? Why weren't they incorporated, at the very least, as background characters?

Are stories like this seriously proposing that in the future, melanin will cease to play a significant role in skin color? How will our DNA know to choose a white default over, say, a brown-skinned one? The answer is, this has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with unexamined racism. 

This is one of the worst types of erasure that a sci-fi romance can perpetuate. Side-stepping diversity or attempting pseudo-diversity by substituting all white, made-up races for real ones isn't clever or plausible, it's harmful.

Making diversity a routine element of fiction isn't just a smart creative choice, it's a respectful one. For more information about why, here are two recent pieces on diversity in SFF:

Via The Book Smugglers


For straight talk about diversity in romance and spec fic, here are some Twitter folks to follow:

WOCInRomance was launched by author Rebekah Weatherspoon to showcase WoC romance authors. If that applies to you, give her a holler and let her know about your sci-fi romance!

Below are the covers and blurbs for three new releases whose covers alone promise diverse characters:

GEMINI: DISILLUSIONED (Beyond Fairytales #28) - Catherine Peace

Being one of the Embassy’s glorified treasure-seekers has its perks…
Komandan Uriah Jacobs recovers ancient artifacts in exchange for more than just decent pay; he also receives guaranteed protection from his former owners, the nyx…until an emergency landing on a too-familiar colony brings him face-to-face with his past life and something more—a surprisingly priceless treasure in the form of a human woman.

A slave to the nyx since childhood…
Shadi spends her waking hours in the forge, dreaming of rescuing her brother with the help of a man she once worshipped like a father. A crashed ship on the colony becomes her only hope to escape. But before she can steal the ship, the pilot abducts her. They may be the same species, but will he help her find her Shilah?

Their attraction is undeniable…
Fighting it seems inconsequential as they evade the nyx's bounty hunter and uncover a conspiracy that shines unwanted light on Shadi's past and reveals the corruption in Uri’s beloved Embassy, placing their fledgling love in danger.

As the universe systematically falls apart, will Shadi and Uri’s newfound passion be enough to keep them alive?


A long time ago, a determined young woman escaped the despair of her homeworld, turning herself into one of the galaxy’s best martial artists, Ebony Strike.

Decades later, the people of her homeworld have tracked her down. They need money and, in order to get that money, they need the old Ebony Strike back. But Ebony has moved on since that time. She is now Xin Dell, a respected government security trainer. And what her people are asking of her is insane: to participate in a corrupt official’s underground fight tournament…and win. Nothing less will do.

To Ebony, it means training a body that’s out of shape, honing disused skills, spending her own time, effort and money, for a planet she’s all but forgotten. But, faced with the alternative–the death of thousands on her world–does she have a choice?

Ebony needs to be focused and ruthless. She needs to win the tournament. Little does she know that she’ll end up losing her heart.

MINDER RISING by Carol Van Natta

A millennium into the future, all children are tested for minder talents, and the best are recruited for the Citizen Protection Service.

Agent Lièrén Sòng is recovering from a near-fatal crash. He should want nothing more than to get back to using his talents to interrogate criminals for his covert CPS field unit, but being sidelined gains new appeal when he makes friends with a woman and her son. Imara Sesay, road crew chief and part-time bartender, breaks her ironclad rule never to get close to customers when she asks Lièrén to teach her son how to control his growing minder talents.

Unexpected deaths in his field unit make Lièrén suspect he isn’t a lucky survivor, he’s a loose end. He should pull away from Imara and Derrit to keep them safe, but when the local CPS Testing Center is entirely too interested in Derrit’s talents, Lièrén must make an impossible choice. Can he stay alive long enough to save Imara and her prodigy son?

Joyfully yours,