Power, Influence, and Speculative Fiction

Power, Influence, and Speculative Fiction

Writing of any kind can feel like screaming into the void. Still, it is important to remember that sometimes the void is listening, and over time, a clear consistent message can bend the moral arc of the universe. Nowhere is that more true than in the genre of speculative fiction.

This post is part of a month-long social media takeover by writer and owner Lisa Schmidt in honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In addition to writing blogs, web content and legal briefs, Lisa is a fiction writer. During the month of November, she is taking a break from legal writing to focus on the more creative side of the craft. Learn more about NaNoWriMo and follow Lisa’s 30-day writing journey on Your Law Geek’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

What is Speculative Fiction?

Speculative fiction is the umbrella term that covers science fiction, fantasy, supernatural thrillers, superheroes, and alternative histories. Basically, it covers any story whose premise starts with “what if…”

  • What if magic was real?
  • What if humans made it to Mars?
  • What if dinosaurs never went extinct?
  • What if Nazis won World War II?

The multi-verse of speculative fiction is enormous. It includes utopias, dystopias, and everything in between. But the one common theme that ties (nearly) all speculative fiction together is that by writing about what is fantastic and untrue, the authors seek to reveal something that is true about the human condition. Sometimes that truth is as simple as what happens when boy meets girl (or other boy). But in other cases, the lens of fantasy focuses on far deeper meanings.

How Authors Use Fantasy to Speak Truth

In 1967, just two decades after the end of World War II, American televisions broadcast the adventures of the interracial, multi-cultural, and dual gendered crew of the starship Enterprise. The creation of Gene Roddenberry, a veteran, Star Trek showed the country what international peace could look like if all of Earth (and the United Federation of Planets) worked together to further goals of exploration and peaceful contact with those other than themselves.

Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek used speculative fiction to influence racial and gender discrimination in the 1960s.

Roddenberry put together a cast of characters including a Black woman, Lt. Nyota Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, and an Asian man, Lt. Hikaru Sulu, played by actor and activist George Takei. A year later, in the midst of the Cold War, they were joined by a Russian navigator, Pavel Chekov, played by Walter Koenig. In season 3, in 1968, Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss on American television.

These firsts were accepted, in part, because they were set in a fantastic futuristic world. Viewers were able to set aside their own sexism, racism, or prejudices against Japan and Russia because there were bigger threats to fight, namely Romulans and Klingons. The differences among the cast faded, but they did not disappear. Instead, they subtly influenced their viewers, normalizing the idea that international teams can work together and that Black women have a place on the same bridge as their white male counterparts. Nichelle Nichols said she was considering leaving the show after the first season, but civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. convinced her to stay on, telling her she was breaking new ground and showing African Americans what was possible for them.

Will my novel live up to the moral convictions of my forbearers? I have no idea, but I’m excited to find out. If you would like to come along for the ride, follow Your Law Geek on Facebook or Instagram through the month of November for excerpts and videos about my writing process as the story unfolds.

Lisa J. Schmidt is a writer, owner of Your Law Geek, and facilitator of Chasing Your Tale: Building Your Writer’s Toolkit hosted by the SheHive in Ferndale, Michigan. If you want to write along with Lisa, sign up for her weekly write-in sessions during NaNoWriMo or contact Lisa directly here.


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