In a world where you can create things that don’t exist, like dragons and planets where people have fins, why on Earth would you add in a touch of prejudice?
[dis • crim • i • na • tion]
- The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of ethnicity, age, sex, or disability.
- Recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.
The question is a simple one, one all authors who do it should be able to answer— why place discrimination in a world you have all the power over?
The only boundaries of what can and can not happen are the author’s imagination, so then shouldn’t they wish to create a world without our’s most unfavourable traits?
For the contemporary stories set within our world, it is easy to understand. Though it is a work of fiction, the storylines are set within imaginary situations that depict our world and our society. It would make no sense if The Fault In Our Stars just erased the Ann Frank House within the scenes set in Amsterdam. After all, when on Earth, there is history to consider– a timeline of both horrific and inspiring events that have shaped us as much as they’ve shaped the characters authors aim to portray.
Humans are prejudicial by nature— we have a long history to account for that. But let’s step outside of the world of realism, and into the wild, unpredictable, sometimes unpractical world of fantasy and sci-fi.
Fantasy as a genre is dependent on the strangeness of a new setting. It features whole newly imagined worlds of little similarity to our own, and so its readership is usually okay with being thrown into the unknown. Similarly, though science fiction may be bordered by the laws of Physics, it is speculative in its own nature. It seeks advancing technology and does not shy away from a ‘what if’ question thrown in its face.
So, then, how can these two genres, which are the perfect breeding ground for the new and different, produce more of the same?
Hanif Kureishi, a British playwright and novelist, once said: “Racism makes people mad – it’s necessary to deal with this in fiction.”
He made this statement in reference to the questions of race that he believed would be at the centre of the postwar Western world and thought that answering them was possible within fiction. That if it could not be countered in real life, then maybe solutions could be found in the literature. After all, literature has proven time and time again that it has the power to change one’s perspective entirely.
But discrimination does not always point towards race, its prejudices can be reserved towards one’s ethnicity or sexuality.
Some might argue that it’s necessary to properly develop an advanced world, even if it’s imaginary – that prejudice is simply a given. It happens in nature, amongst animals where birds are shunned for having a wrongly tinted wing, but maybe, that’s only the nature of earthly creatures.
Maybe, it’s necessary to sell copies. People drift towards what they know and so perhaps prejudice helps them feel more grounded, even in a new world. Perhaps it’s too naive to bury one’s head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist.
The answer is not a simple one, but maybe it’s time we start the discussion of why we’re all so crutched by prejudice, even when we’re trying to escape to worlds unknown.
If you liked this post then read Why crime fiction is fixated on women as victims of violent crime or CENSORED: The sinister truth behind America’s book banning boom next.
Liseli is a journalism student with a costly love for travelling and new books. She loves a good solo adventure but when she can’t be jetting off to a new destination, the next best thing for her is discovering new places through books. And if she’s not reading a book, she’s looking for her next read. Liseli is passionate about how our identities are represented within literature today.
Favourite genres: Romance and Sci-Fi.