Part 19. Writing the Future of Race by Michelle Murrain (August 2013)

I like thinking about the future, and its many possibilities. Race is an important, although often subtle, component of my fiction. Almost all of my protagonists are people of color, although it takes paying attention to clues in order to make it clear – because in my writing, race is incidental… usually. (I do have one novel in which race is actually fairly central to the story – but that novel is set in the 19th century.) Since race is such a salient feature of our present landscape, even globally, it is interesting to me that it doesn’t make its way into most science fiction. At least in the US, largely, it is writers of color who hold that space.

The actual future of race looks fairly clear from one perspective – the smaller and smaller the world becomes, the more people will intermix, and the less significant race will be in a world increasingly full of people of mixed race. That’s not to say that race and its significance will go away anytime soon. I expect it will take quite a long time before most people are of mixed race in the world. But that’s not necessarily the way things have to go. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which for some reasons (that can be easily understood in the present context) people are still separated by race and nationality, and social structures work to keep that separation in place.

I do find it interesting that in the Star Trek universe, people do primarily have the same racial makeup as people do presently. That is actually a fairly common way that science fiction writers project race into the future – but that seems, in some regards to be the least likely scenario: that we’ll think about race in similar ways, and segregate by race in similar ways. To me, it seems the most likely are either of the two scenarios outlined above – race becomes largely irrelevant, or race is strongly reified by social and political structures in the future.