This week, I’ve been thinking about the importance of diversity in science fiction and why science fiction needs to embrace diversity as a genre. That got me wondering: How much my fiction actually includes diverse characters and cultures? So, I decided to go back through my stories and do some analysis.
This isn’t a scientific assessment by any reach. There’s a lot of subjectivity, but here’s what I did. For each of my published or forthcoming stories (21 in total), I identified the gender, age, race, and socio-economic class of my protagonist, antagonist, and the significant supporting characters. I selected one character to be the protagonist. Not every story had an antagonist per se, but I tried to pick the one character who best filled that role. I included only supporting characters that I felt played an important role in the story. Defining a character’s the gender, age, race, and socio-economic class also wasn’t always easy. For many characters it wasn’t defined or easily inferred from the text, so I designated these characters as “undefined.”
Gender: I was actually surprised to see that over 86% of my protagonists were male. I’ve always thought that I wrote more women protagonist, but I the data don’t lie. What I find interesting is that the percentage of woman as antagonist and support roles increases to 31%. I’m not really sure what to make of this, except to say that I probably should have more women in my stories in general. Finally, I had an “other” category, which included non-human characters. I don’t tend to include many non-humans in my stories, but when I do, they are often the bad guys, it would appear.
Age: I divide ages up into somewhat arbitrary categories, but they illustrate what I want. I actually had a fairly good spread of ages in all my categories with only children being under-represented. This isn’t too surprising, because I don’t tend to juvenile or young adult stories. I’m surprised that more children didn’t show up as supporting characters. I assume this is an artifact of what I considered a significant supporting character, because children often play a key role in the motivation of my main characters. I had more elderly characters that I would have thought. The final category, which made up a surprising number of my antagonist (18%) included characters that either had no easily defined age or were ageless.
Race: I was pleasantly surprised to find so many races represented in my stories. I’m not sure if I actually managed to accurately capture the individual cultures, but I hope I did. The majority of my characters were still Caucasian, but groups like Pacific Islanders made up a significant percentage of my protagonists. I’m pleased to see that my antagonists did not have a significantly different racial distribution.
Socio-economic Class: I don’t tend to write about rich people or the “ruling” class and that’s borne out in the data. Nearly 87% of my protagonists fall in the middle or working class. This pattern is also held (more or less) for my antagonists and supporting characters.
So to sum things up, adult, white males comprised about 64% of my protagonists. This is higher than I expected, and it’s also considerable greater than the percentage of adult, white, male antagonists (31%) and supporting characters (44%). This analysis was eye-opening for me, and shows that I could do better bringing more character diversity into my stories, especially for my protagonists.