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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

For the past decade or so, fans of science fiction have been pegged as a specific type of person — picture the central cast of “The Big Bang Theory.” Though attributing science fiction to the stereotypical pasty, white male nerd may seem like a long-standing tradition, it is interesting to note that this has never been an accurate depiction of science fiction fans. In fact, much of the sci-fi culture we see today — conventions, fan fiction, online forums — was sparked by female fans. It’s sad though; whatever it was exactly that designated science fiction the genre of the intelligent, white man ignored a history of diversity and progress in fiction far beyond that of other genres. It’s sad to see science fiction reduced to such a small demographic, considering its past and the actual origins of the phenomenon of a fan base.

Specifically, dear reader, we are going to be talking about the original “Star Trek” series, though we could expand on other examples. Those not familiar with the nuances of science fiction tend to at least know of “Star Trek,” and its fan base’s depiction in pop culture, and associate it with the intelligent, white male stereotype. But what a lot of us don’t realize today is how diverse the original “Star Trek” series was, especially compared to its contemporaries. It starred a black woman in a commanding position and a Japanese man in a pilot role less than two decades after World War 2. That may not seem like much, but try thinking of a popular show in the early 2000s with that much diversity. One of the biggest things we don’t realize is that the fan base of the original “Star Trek” series was made up of a lot of women.

A lot of basis of the science fiction community came out of “Star Trek.” Most of these things were largely driven by women. One example being that the first few conventions were attended mainly by women. The whole idea of a passionate science fiction fan base came from a show that highlighted scientific exploration and a diverse future population — one that featured the first interracial kiss on daytime television in the U.S. and one with actors who are now outspoken about diversity and progress.

And yet, somewhere along the way, science fiction fans were reduced to that intelligent, white male stereotype, and for some reason, it stuck. It’s not clear when that happened, but the common notion of science fiction now depicts a white man saving the galaxy, possibly accompanied by a cool black friend or a hot, mysterious woman.

But things are starting to look up. Looking back on recent sci-fi hits, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” features a trio of heroes comprised of a woman and two men of color. 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” — which was nominated for an Oscar in the category of best picture — was less about the titular Mad Max and more about Imperator Furiosa and the five women she rescued from an abusive captor. In the most recent “Star Wars” movie, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the core heroes were a woman and three men of color.

Unlike what some would have you believe, this isn’t new from science fiction, this isn’t science fiction diverting from its fans or stealing the story away from its fan base — it’s simply reverting back to its roots, representing the vast world we live in and the galaxies that we — all of us, not just those with fairer skin — could one day live in.

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