As a fan of science fiction for lo these many years, I have long been dismayed at the critique of science fiction that states there are too many Anglo-Saxon characters with Anglo-Saxon names. Why dismayed? Because these critiques are always in English— the Anglo-Saxon language— and reference science fiction in English.
It only stands to reason that the majority of people who read science fiction in English are deeply comfortable with Anglo-Saxon character names. In England it is because most of the people are ethnic Anglo-Saxons. In America, it’s more because Anglo-Saxon names are so common— even though often those Anglo-Saxon names belong to African-American people.
In the days of the pulp science fiction magazines, editors wanted authors to use Anglo-Saxon names for their characters because the reading public identified with such characters. In fact, many of the authors adopted Anglo-Saxon pen names.
But time marched on. After World War Two, when African-Americans and Asian-Americans served their country so well, and many American men had gone overseas to fight and thus become more aware of other parts of the world, change was inevitable. Non-Anglo-Saxon names, and characters, were more accepted by readers.
Many people think of the television series Star Trek (the original series) as having broken a lot of barriers when it came to having a multi-cultural character group. But the captain— very much the main character in that version of Star Trek— was of Anglo-Saxon origin. In fact, of the three main characters of the show there were 2 and 1/2 Americans— Kirk and McCoy were Americans and Spock’s mother, Amanda was also.
The Enterprise did have a variety of other characters and had amazing diversity for the time. But they wisely didn’t expect the average television viewer of the day to accept a non-Anglo-Saxon as a lead character.
But today things are very different. Instead of being plagued by old-fashioned outright prejudice, we have the kind of new-age prejudice that calls Star Wars ‘racist’ because Darth Vader is wicked and he’s black (?). OK, he’s not really black, but he wears a black outfit.
Audiences today would accept an Asian or African or Pacific Islander as a starship captain and identify with the character. But for those people who still have a touch of Anglo-Saxon in their genetic makeup, and who have the misfortune to be ‘white’, there is a little discomfort. When we see someone of a non-Anglo-Saxon background, we wonder if they would judge us harshly because of our evil ancestors. We identify a bit more with characters that might have a bit of Anglo-Saxon blood, and so are ‘evil like us’. And we are comfortable with Anglo-Saxon names that we don’t have to put our tongue on backward to pronounce.
University liberals would probably love to declare a full ban on Anglo-Saxon names and Anglo-Saxon characters. But they would be saying that IN ENGLISH. And as long as we have fiction in English, there will be fiction readers who would like to have Anglo-Saxon characters as part of a happy mix including every current type of human and a double serving of interesting aliens.
See that place up on the top of this blog post where you are invited to rate this blog post with one to five stars? For experimental purposes I’m asking each person who reads this post to give it 1-4 stars. If enough people do it, maybe it will create a black hole or something.