Race Issues In Science Fiction

“The Comet” by WEB DuBois had an aspect to it that really made it stand out from other sci-fi pieces: the continuous reminder about the difference of race between Jim and Julia. The racial difference is constantly mentioned, which in my experience is odd for a science fiction story. From the very beginning, there are allusions made which suggest that Jim is black, “Few ever noticed him save in a way that stung”, (253). Right off the bat we get the feeling that Jim is considered inferior in some way.

As the story continues, the issue of Jim being black and Julia being white is brought up frequently. There is the story of the comet which is what brings them together, but the focus keeps going back to the difference in race and how a black man and white woman may have to get together to repopulate the world. This was a radical idea because blacks and whites getting married was more often than not, frowned upon.

This made me begin to question my own definition of what I consider to be science fiction writing. Science fiction, in my opinion, has always been about outer space, aliens, laser guns, ect. However, I feel it is something so much broader. Science fiction is more writing about what is unknown and different. In the 1920’s (not to be condescending in any way) blacks and whites were considered to be two very different sets of people. The cliché with color “only being skin deep” did not apply. So a white person may have considered someone black to be “alien-like” simply because they didn’t know enough about them. This idea is reinforced within the story itself, “…she was alone in the world with a stranger, with something more than a stranger, – with a man alien in blood and culture – unknown, perhaps unknowable”, (264). Therefore, an alien can simply be someone that we don’t understand.

In today’s society, we understand more about different kinds of people and their makeup, so we know that black people are not aliens, however we don’t know much at all about other life that exists in the universe, so aliens from other planets are what take a forefront in today’s works of science fiction. This makes me think that perhaps in 100 years, we may know much more about outer space and extra-terrestrials so maybe science fiction will center around something entirely new that is considered to be “alien”.


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One Response to Race Issues In Science Fiction

  1. I also saw how much Jim was treated like an “other” by other people and by himself as well. Although other characters addressed him by his name, when Jim spoke or did something it was always “the messenger said” or the narrative used the pronoun “he” and not “Jim said” or “Jim did this.” I think by doing this, it distances him to create that divide that was between him and the people around him.

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