I’m getting close to finished with the first draft of my sci fi novel (tentative title is Daros), and I’m starting to think about cover design. I’ll get actual artists to handle that for me, but one fun part of that is deciding whether to represent the characters on the cover or not. On the one hand, you can create an appealing cover with some kind of action or character represented. On the other, once you provide a picture of a character, you inhibit people’s ability to imagine them how they want to. That includes complex issues like race.
In a book set on Earth, physical appearance comes with a whole bunch of social baggage (and often prejudice and discrimination) that comes from our current society. In a future space-faring setting that still has humans, a few things seem likely:
- racial categories that are present on Earth won’t mean the same things that they do now
- the physical characteristics that people present will be more homogenized than on Earth now (we’re already seeing that in the 21st century as migration happens and as love overcomes barriers against cross-boundary partners that were stronger in the past)
- people who’ve adapted to life on different worlds will potentially be more different from each other (both physically and culturally) than the historical racial and ethnic categories in Earth’s current population (unless there’s tremendous connectivity, uniformity of media, and easy travel)
If all of that is true, then probably bias and prejudice would still exist, and some of it may be appearance based, but it would be addressed toward people from different planets rather than people from regions or nations.
I’m not sure of any of this, and I would hope that a technologically advanced society would leave a lot of this behind, but it’s interesting to think about.