A few days ago, I wrote a post about diversity in science fiction—or more accurately the lack of it. I realized after writing it that I simply accepted the premise that diversity is a good thing. To be honest, I’ve never questioned this base assumption. Yet, as a scientist, I’ve been trained to question everything, especially basic assumptions in an argument, because if these prove false, then every part of the argument built upon that foundation is potentially flawed.
Now before anyone gets bent out of shape, I think diversity in science fiction is desirable and important. Not even considering the usual “politically correct” arguments, I think diversity is good for the science fiction because it will make the genre more vital and improve its survival prospects. I see diversity in science fiction in the same way as I see genetic diversity in a plant or animal population. In biology, high genetic diversity is usually associated with a decreased likelihood of extinction; genetic diversity gives a population the raw material needed for it to adapt to a changing environment. For science fiction, the more diverse the people reading and writing it, the more likely it is to maintain its relevance in the face of a changing literary, social, and economic landscape.
Currently, there’s the perception that science fiction is a dying genre. My Hopefull Monsters writing group has had numerous discussion about how many of the “big” magazines seem to be stagnant with the type of stories they publish. This stagnation is likely the result of not enough diversity in writers and readers in the field. After all, these publications must sell copies to stay alive, and probably can’t frequently forge into new territory without considerable risk, but that’s where I think smaller “indie” magazines can, and to some extent do, fill an important void. I think expanding the diversity within the genre is crucial to keeping science fiction vigorous and relevant into the coming decades.