Skin colour in sci-fi writing – a future perspective

corporationhands

The hands represent the top five corporations in my book

When I set out to write a sci-fi novel set over a thousand years into the future, I wanted to dissolve culture down into its basic building blocks and then rebuild it in a distorted and twisted corporate image. Imagine being locked in a room all your life with nothing but a bunch of Dyson hoover manuals for company, you’d be pretty messed up. By the end you would be shouting out phrases and bullshit, taking about nozzle collectors and brush length like it was gospel –this is Future Grim— well, my interpretation of a solely corporate dominated future.

What does that mean? What does it have to do with skin colour?

Good point, but I feel you need the set up to understand the problem I presented myself with.

Prejudice as a concept is never going to disappear. It will take a few more generations for us to stop discriminating against women, let alone against different skin colours. I feel that prejudice is here to stay for the long haul and is just a basic element of our fear abiding brains telling us to be scared of the unknown, get to shelter and feed yourself and your family.

In my future, your life is devoid of the culture we understand today. You grew up in a heavily designed and controlled environment (know as the corporate culture) where political correctness has been taken to its peak (you could say, a political acceptance). This leaves a prejudice vacuum in which hatred is directed at rival corporations. Initially this would be to incentivise healthy competition, but after generations it would soon grow to fill the discrimination gap.

So I was left writing my story set in a world without the standard culture or discrimination that we are so familiar with today. Initially to combat that I left out skin colour description all together so that the reader could imagine a character as looking Asian, European, African ect. This however backfired as most of my characters ended up feeling European, because of the heavy use of corporate terminology and ideas that permeate throughout my universe. I didn’t want to describe characters as being from certain countries as this then brings along the cultural baggage that those countries have. Suddenly a character who is described as having a Latino complexion has a slight Spanish twang with every word they speak.

This lead me to my recent revelation of how to describe skin colour in my book. As with all great corporate things, it stems from categorisation. This one being standard plus or minus one.

Standard = Light brown

Standard plus one = Darker brown

Standard minus one = Lighter brown

It goes on in either direction to the different shades, with plus or minus three being the limits on either end. This should hopefully elevate my current cultural problems until I find the next common thing I need to describe.

Of course this doesn’t solve all the problems, but it does allow me to limit the focus on race (and allow myself to have a racially mixed set of characters) while still following the corporate culture that my universe demands.

What have other people done in their fiction to tackle these subjects, are they a part of your plot or have you done something similar to be because the world demands it? I’d love to hear from fellow creators.

In other news, I recently purchased www.klcarter.co.uk, which currently just leads to this blog. When I get some spare cash I’ll invest in a website or something.

I’m still editing Future Grim: Origins at the moment, but it’s coming along leaps and bounds. I’ve had plenty of great suggestions from my test readers (both happen to be crazy scientists) that has allowed the little kinks in my story to be ironed out.

Keep it spacey,

Kyle Carter

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