What do you do when an angry fan writes you a letter accusing you of ruining his favourite series? Ignore it? Get depressed?
Well, Star Trek writer David Mack decided to do neither when a bigoted fan wrote him a letter recently.
Instead, he decided to take a stand.
Mack writes the series of Star Trek novels, and his most recent publication Harbinger featured a lesbian romance between a Vulcan and a Klingon.
This caused one reader to write to say that he would not be reading the books any longer:
You can call me a homophobe or use any other excuse you choose to write me off but the truth is homosexually [sic] is not universally accepted and I get to decided [sic] what I read and I choose not to read any more of your work. And on top of that no Vulcan would consider the situation "logical". You can't just remold the Vulcan persona to suit yourself.
It's true that Sci-Fi and LGBTQ characters have had a long and chequered relationship.
Franchises like Star Trek have often struggled to faithfully create diversity, particularly in the white, hetero-male-dominated world of TV programming and writing.
But Mack's response perfectly summarized exactly why it is so important for writers to continue to push for diversity:
Although the various television series could have done more in their respective times to portray ethnic and gender diversity, those of us who write the licensed Trek fiction continue to do our best to depict a more progressive, enlightened, open, and harmonious future, not just for humanity but for all sentient beings. One in which love, equality, and compassion are the touchstones of civilized society.
To that end, we've tried to make our literary dramatis personae more closely resemble the people of Earth.
He goes on to demand better from fans and writers alike:
I'm not so starry-eyed as to think that day will ever come, at least not in my lifetime. I suspect that humanity will always have to contend with prejudice in one form or another. But that doesn't give us license to stop struggling against it. It is exactly the reason we must press on and continue to do better, to demand better, to show that it's possible.
By speaking out, Mack has put a foot in the right direction of change. I can only hope more writers make concerted efforts to challenge their audience's attitudes.
Mack's complete response is pretty powerful. You can read it here.