Ever since visionary Gene Roddenberry outfitted his starship Enterprise with an African-American comm officer, an Asian helm officer, a Vulcan First Officer and a Russian navigator, diversity has been the gold standard of science fiction (and SFR). That a genre (mostly) set in the future should so often fail to meet that standard is a disappointment to many of us, both readers and writers. There are still too many white, male faces on covers and between the pages, and not enough people of color in either place.
But we’ve been doing better in recent years. Check out this list on Goodreads for some examples. And my latest release, Fools Rush In, Book 3, Interstellar Rescue series, features kickass underground Rescue agent Rayna Carver, a heroine of African-American descent.
Rayna was first introduced to readers as “Dozen,” the Rescue “conductor” who helped Asia escape the mines of Gallodon IV in Unchained Memory. (She appears in Trouble in Mind, also.) She was one of those characters that literally leapt off the page as I was writing, so full of life and energy my job was just to describe what I saw in my head and write down whatever she said. She was that real. I didn’t set out to “add in a person of color.” She just was who she was, and I had to figure out her backstory.
As I was writing Unchained Memory, I happened to visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife training center near Shepherdstown, West Virginia. On the corridor walls there were photos of famous African-Americans active in various outdoor sports or environmental causes. (This was already a head-turner; how many famous African-American conservationists can you name? Yeah, me neither.) I found this picture of a woman who had a grin just like “Dozen’s.” She had the athleticism and the coiled energy, too. She’s one of the first African-American female rock climbers, Chelsea Griffie, and she looks AWESOME! Trust me, if I could have used her picture on the cover of Fools Rush In, I would have done it in a heartbeat!
I don’t know what led Chelsea Griffie to want to cling to rock faces hundreds of feet above the surface of the earth in defiance of gravity and what appears to be good sense. But Rayna Carver has a very good—and extremely personal—reason for choosing to place herself in danger. Like others before her in another place and time, she became a conductor in Rescue to help those held captive by the alien Grays find their freedom.
Check out this excerpt from Fools Rush In:
The captain moved, slow and smooth as a stalking targa, and suddenly Rayna found herself backed up against the plasteel wall of the companionway, her pulse pounding. “Tell me, Agent Carver, just how does a little bit like you end up in the hold of a slave ship bound for hell? Why would you volunteer for this job—the one most likely to get you tortured or raped or just worked to death?”
His face had hardened into sharp, grim lines; his eyes showed no more warmth than bits of cold, green glass. Where his anger came from Rayna had no idea, but it had turned him into a mountain of ice. The wrong word from her could bring that avalanche crashing down in the next moment.
But all that cold created only heat in her. Who was he to question her motivation? She stood her ground.
“I’ve got a debt to pay.” She tugged at the zipper on her jumpsuit and bared the upper part of her chest. There on the left was the small tattooed heart with the initials T and S that she’d worn since the day her mother died, fifty-four days after her father. “My parents were slaves—taken from Earth when they were just teenagers. Rescue saved them, but they couldn’t return them. Too much time was lost; too much was lost to the mindwipe. Still, if it hadn’t been for Rescue, I wouldn’t be here. So I owe Rescue my life and my parents’ lives. But I also owe the Grays some payback.”
At last Murphy stepped back, the anger gone from his expression. “Revenge is a lonely game, Little Bit. And it rarely works out like you think it will. Trust me on that one.” His gaze met hers for half a second. Then he spun on his heel and strode off down the corridor.
About Fools Rush In:
She thought she had the toughest job in Rescue—
until the day she had to convert a pirate into a hero.
Interstellar Rescue “conductor” Rayna Carver is deep undercover on a slave ship bound for an isolated region of space when the ship is attacked by pirates. Her liberator is Captain Sam Murphy, a man known in the spacer bars to love only profit, adventure and women.
But Murphy hates a few things, too, chief among them slavers. Will it be enough to gain his help for Rayna’s mission—ferreting out two spies bent on sabotaging an arms factory to turn the tide in an alien civil war?
Fools Rush In is available from Amazon NOW!
I’d like to thank Donna for stopping by to share her thoughts about her wonderful book (I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy!) and diversity. I also loved that Roddenberry saw the future as being so inclusive.
What do you look for in the books you read?
I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value). (And don’t forget that once a quarter I’ll be tossing in something fun from the Perilously Fun Shop!) Recipient is announced the first blog post of the new month.