There are, sadly, lots of people who still don't take well to the idea of more diversity in science fiction and fantasy. However, author Chuck Wendig has a message for those who dislike there being a gay protagonist in his new Star Wars novel Aftermath : "Stop being the Empire." Because while these people can sometimes get highly self-righteous, that doesn't change the fact that they aren't the good guys.
Wendig's canonical new novel, which was released on September 4, takes place after the destruction of the second Death Star at the end of the Return of the Jedi film as the Rebel Alliance tries to hunt down the remainder of the Empire before their forces can regroup. It also features a gay protagonist. Sadly but predictably, it seems there are lots of people who don't approve.
So in a long blog post talking about the novel's release, Wendig takes a moment near the end to address this non-controversy in the best way possible.
"If you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you," Wendig writes, comparing such detractors to saurians squawking at an oncoming meteor. He continues,
You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.
Wendig also points out that having a gay protagonist isn't even the end of the Star Wars universe's current and upcoming assaults on the traditional straight, white, male-dominated status quo in science fiction. His novel, he writes, also features a woman rescuing a man — plus the heroes of the new Star Wars movie are a woman, a Black man, and a Latino man. "So many meteors," he muses. "So little time to squawk at them."
Though interestingly, anti-diversity proponents in other media have in the past proudly used villain imagery to identify themselves, so who knows if Wendig's detractors will actually take offense at the Empire comparison. (Yeah, I don't get it either.)
Despite entrenched efforts by many to keep science fiction homogenous — efforts that gained widespread attention this year at the Hugo Awards in particular — it seems clear that this status quo is changing nonetheless. Authors, including authors writing canonical novels in beloved franchises, are no longer limiting their protagonists to straight, white men.
Diversity will happen in sci-fi and fantasy sooner or later. Preferably sooner. Because people who aren't straight, and white, and male both exist and have worthwhile stories to tell and to witness, whether it's here on Earth or in a galaxy far, far away.