True story: several of the rejections that I got for Super Justice Force made mention of how difficult it was for certain editors to relate to my hero, Darius Logan. None of them came out and said they couldn’t relate to him because he was black, just that they couldn’t relate to him. Fair enough, I suppose. But I can’t help but wonder exactly what it was about Darius that they couldn’t relate to. Was it the fact that he was an orphan, like Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Tarzan, Superman, or Batman? Was it that he found himself stuck in a violent world not of his own making, like Katniss Everdeen? Was it that he was a tortured soul struggling to survive like… well… like many characters in some of the most popular stories of all time?
The fact of the matter is that aside from the recurring “teenage boys don’t read” and “this isn’t girl-friendly enough” responses that accompanied every single rejection of Super Justice Force, one of the most common complaints editors had was that they couldn’t relate to Darius. Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what that means, and unless it meant that my book was so poorly written that Darius was an unlikeable jerk, then it most likely meant that some people couldn’t get behind the fact that he was black.
Black people were marching all over the South. Dr. King was leading people to freedom, and here I was, in the 23rd century, fourth in command of the Enterprise.
Star Trek first aired during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, between the time when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Supreme Court declared prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.
Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura, television’s first major Black female character who wasn’t a maid, did not at first feel the full weight of her role’s significance until after the first season was finished and she handed her resignation to Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator.
In a 2011 conversation with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nichols told the incredible story of how one particular fanboy convinced her to stay after all. She gave notice on a Friday, and attended an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills the next day. At the event, someone approached her, saying he had a fan waiting to speak to her.
Aside from being the most physically powerful man that I know of, my maternal grandfather was also the first nerd of color I ever met. He was enamored of all things weird, off-center, having to do with outer space, other worlds, or the possibility that a monster just might rise out of the sea. He was my gateway drug to sci-fi. My grandfather is directly responsible for getting me hooked. It started with television. It started with Star Trek.
The earliest — actually, the most coherent — memory that I have of my grandfather is of us, in my grandparents’ basement, watching the “Arena” episode of the original Star Trek series. I’m not sure what triggered it, but he had some serious issues with the Gorn.