Philosophy and Science Fiction
NK Jemisin, who is my current favorite fantasy (fantasy and sci-fi I think have overlap in imagining alternate realities) writer talks about this kind of thing on her blog:"This is why I write fantasy the way I do, by the way — because showing the full breadth of human variance and complexity shouldn’t be groundbreaking. This is also how I often twist common tropes and play with reader expectations — because whether something is a cliche or a subversion frequently depends on who it happens to, in our society. Black women rarely get to be the prize that male heroes fight over, for example. White women are rarely depicted as thuggish or second banana to a woman of color in the beauty/charisma department; black men are rarely given the chance to (literally) explore their feminine side; even white men are rarely shown as marginalized and weak if they’re the hero. They say there are no new ideas, but it’s remarkably easy to freshen an old idea just by applying it to a wider variety of people. Correctly calibrating to the human norm opens up whole new matrices of storytelling richness." - See more at: http://nkjemisin.com/2014/11/your-groundbreaking-is-not-my-groundbreaking/#more-2379
Thanks for sharing that quote, Malcolm. I've heard good things about Jemisin, and I'd like to check out her stuff sometime. While my preference is generally for science fiction, I do read some fantasy once in awhile (as long as it's not the lame reheat-Tolkien-and-serve kind of fantasy). Both genres are definitely in the imagining alternative realities business.