Mark Charan Newton writes on Science Fiction, Fantasy and Minorities:
Like so many parts of our culture, the genre was – decades ago – dominated by straight white males. Audiences are now comfortable with characters such as Captain Jack Harkness, in Torchwood, who I think it’s safe to say doesn’t fit into the straight male category. Likewise, black characters and women now feature equally on film posters; we have balance. We’ve come a long way in representing certain communities, and this may be as much the influence of culture on science fiction as it is the other way around.
Now, online communities are becoming acutely sensitive to writers who populate their novels solely with straight white males, or novels where women exist simply as plot devices to further the aims of said straight white males (usually to give them someone to rescue). There was a recent controversy when a SF fan poll only included a small percentage of women writers. Related to this,SF novelist and critic John Scalzi points out that many films still fail the Bechdel test on whether or not films do right by their female characters. The quick-fire culture of science fiction and fantasy fandom has seen that such debates will be aired, and that blindness to equality will not go unpunished. Even publishers do not escape the issues: for example when they’re caughtwhitewashing novel covers.These discussions force those who create art and entertainment to think actively about what they’re doing, and that can only be a good thing for everyone. – read the full post.