Diversity in Speculative Fiction: Characters and Worlds.

Diversity in Speculative Fiction

Writing diverse characters as a white, straight and privileged woman.

Diversity in Speculative Fiction is something I think about a lot as a writer (and a white one). I want to write diverse books, in which everyone feels and is represented. But the thing is, is that I write speculative fiction – and the majority of the stories I write are not about or on earth. The countries, cultures and races we have here do not apply on these worlds as a copy paste – nor should we want to take those liberties lighthearted.

But does that mean that the fictional world should not be diverse? NO. Should it mean that because I’m white and straight, I can’t have my characters look different than me or have a different sexuality from me? NO. Every fictional world is different and must be diverse in its own way, it only makes sense. So, yes, I am a white, heterosexual author, but the people in my fictional worlds are not all the same as me. My fictional worlds will have different sexualities from my own and have characters that look completely different from myself. But, not just for the sake of it becoming diverse.

Writing from POV’s that are different from you

I write about and from the point of view of people that live in my world – every character – not just the one that looks like me. Before I will officially publish my books, I will hire sensitivity readers, because I do recognize that I am not a know it all. I don’t want anyone to be hurt by the way I write about my world or its characters. That is not my intention. The opposite is.

The thing is that there is no racism towards skin color or sexuality in my fictional worlds. Because I am writing diversity in Speculative Fiction which is fictional and I created worlds from my imagination. There are other problems there, that we don’t have here. And we have problems here, that they don’t have there. I might write a character that looks like you and not like me, but without the struggles you know here on earth. Different worlds mean different politics, struggles and hurdles. My point is: I think everyone should try to write diverse books, but we should not write about oppression that we do not know about and is not ours (to write about).

Diversity in Speculative Fiction

Leaving room open for imagination

If we leave room open for imagination and do not describe the characters in detail, the book is diverse in the eyes of the reader who wants it to be diverse. It means that they will be whoever the reader wants them to be. It leaves room for diversity in characters. But the point in my opinion is, the room should not be left open for diversity – it should be filled with it. Shouldn’t we all write diverse books on purpose? Not every book has to represent everybody, but an entire range of books should.

It’s a tricky thing. Especially me, as a white author, think about my liberties sometimes. I really want to write diversity in Speculative Fiction – to have every reader represented in my books. I do not want to take from existing cultures or races and nor shall I, but I want to create new ones. And when we talk about fictional worlds; people will feel represented only in looks/sexuality/physically, because the people there are not the same as here on earth. There are no identical cultures. It’s the literal meaning of ‘diverse’ – which should be celebrated and not shunned away from. 

Celebrate Diversity 

I do not think we should shy away from diversity in Speculative Fiction and describing characters too much, just because they do not look like you – or have another difference from yourself that people on earth regard as a minority. It would mean that because you’re scared to write about it and hurt people, they are hurt all the same by being ignored or pushed to the sidelines in your world. No one should be ignored. But we should manage it with the utmost care, as everything involves people and feelings.

So, yes, I think everyone should write about diverse worlds and characters – and write about skin color, eye color, hair color, sexuality and physical abilities. But maybe we should leave a little room open for people to decide other physical traits on their own. I like the idea of deciding what I want ‘handsome’ or ‘strong’ to look like. As these are opinions and not facts.

Fictional Worlds

In every Fantasy world that is created it only makes sense to have a diverse world. The people / creatures that live in these worlds should look different from eachother depending on which part of the world they come from. It’s part of basic evolution. Imagine if every living creature walking around in that world would look the same. That would be boring as hell. Of course, in these fantasy worlds there might not exist the same racism that exists here on earth. The countries are not the same and it does not need to reflect earth. This makes fantasy so amazing. You get to shape the world just how you want it too – because it does not exist. 

Diversity in Speculative Fiction

Representation in Publishing 

I feel like indeed, this is a problem in publishing nowadays. There are many white and straight authors that write about white and straight characters. Which is fine, but compared to diverse books it’s way too much. There should be more books written about characters that have different sexualities from the generic ‘straight’. And there should be more books written about people with different skin colors than the generic ‘white’. 

But what’s even more important, is that they should be represented by their authors. There should be more diverse authors. When a story is set on earth, the culture and people they are writing about should be what they are familiar with. 

Again: should white authors ONLY write about white characters and black authors ONLY about black characters? And the same for all the other examples? Of course not, but when writing about characters and stories in earth (and even in fictional worlds) be very mindful of other people’s lives, heritages and histories. Hire sensitivity readers and do not take any liberties with a culture not your own! 

Final words

Acknowledge the books from diverse authors as well! Representation matters, even if you are represented a LOT. The world is diverse – which means that literature should reflect this. In all aspects; skin color, culture, sexuality, physical ability, etc.

Again, this does not mean that you’re not allowed to write about characters other than yourself – or to create worlds that represent diverse characters. But it does mean to think about it and involve the right people, especially if you might end up hurting someone.

Another great post to read about writing diverse characters and why you should not just write diverse characters for the sake of it, is this one. Read this, it has some really really really valid points!

Lots of Love,

To learn more about what I’m currently working on, read this post.

Britt van den Elzen

Hi! I’m Britt and I am a 20-something creative entrepreneur from the Netherlands. I love all things magic, especially in fiction. I have been reading and watching stories ever since I can remember, and it is the greatest passion of my life! ✨

Find me on: Web | Instagram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected!